2010年4月30日 星期五

A Quarrelsome Century for Chinese Culture

The 20th century has not been an easy century for Chinese scholars and philosophers. For them, China underwent two revolutions, the so-called democratic and nationalist revolution of 1911 under the leadership of the Nationalist Sun YatSen in which the totterring imperial system which has dominated China through an all encompassing bureaucracy for some 4000 years was overthrown, followed nearly 40 years later by the proud announcement of Mao TseTung at the head of the ramparts of the former Imperial Palace in Beijing on lst October, 1949 that the Chinese people have finally stood up under the leadership of the proletariat claiming to have won power under the then reigning Marxist-Leninist socialist idealogy. Such political events and the ideologies which supported them theoretically could not fail to leave its footprints in the thoughts of the Chinese intellectuals trying to solve one of the most difficult problems facing China in its efforts to modernize itself in the face of the economic, ideological or military and in brief "cultural" challenges coming from what they formerly regarded as the "barbarian" nations of the West.


In a way, the history of 20th century Chinese cultural philosophy is a history of China's struggle to find its cultural feet in the face of the various challenges from the West. In the light of such challenges, Chinese cultural philosophers or thinkers have formulated three different kinds of response. The first is to deny its own past and to regard it as thoroughly bankrupt and to rebuild Chinese culture anew using the Western principles of science and democracy. The second is to rebuild China using the so-called scientific socialist principles of Marxism, as supplemented by Leninism and later Maoism. The last response is to reassert what some thought of as the core values of Chinese civilization namely Confucianism: the response of the so-called "new Confucians". 


In this herculean cultural task, Chinese thinkers could not but be influenced by their own peculiar geographical situations.  After 1949, many thinkers were trapped within the PRC. For them, because of the system of totalitarian control under the influence of Leninism, only "socialist" (read Communist) thought were permittted. To these thinkers, Confucianism must be eradicated because they were thought to be the kind of ideology suitable at a particular stage in Chinese history, the period of what they thought of as the "feudalistic" stage, in which the landlords and kings and nobility were in control . The 1911 revolution was thought to be  the result of the development of the bourgeois "democratic" stage, when theoretically the merchants, industrialists, financiers and urban middle class or bourgeois intellectuals were in control. After the triumph of the so-called "socialist revolution", the workers and with Maoist thought, the peasants were supposed to be in control, under the leadership of the CCP, which was supposed to be the political embodiment of the avant garde of Chinese "socialist consciousness" in accordance with the principles of dialectical materialism" in which the dominant ideology of the relevant historical stage was supposed to be determined by the underlying socio-economic conditions of the relevant societies at the particular stage of their socio-historical development.  The so-called Chinese intellectual and cultural tradition shall accordingly be completely rebuilt along socialist principles. For this reason, they severely criticized Confucianist thoughts, especially during that cultural tragedy and disaster called the "Cultural Revolution" of the mid-1960s, when the Chinese intellectual scene was overwhelmed by radical leftist thoughts through the political need of Mao to retain or regain power after the debacle of the "Big Leap Forward".


After their expulsion or escape from China, many Chinese intellectuals went to either Hong Kong, Taiwan and some of them left for various Western countries, principally America. In such different cultural contexts, it is inevitable that they should be influenced by the intellectual climate and predominant forms of philosophic thought in their host cultures and feel a nostalgia for old China. This may help in part to explain the different approaches they take towards Chinese tradition and in particular of Confucianism. Being uprooted from native China, some of them felt emotionally attached to the "old" ways of thinking and sought to do their best to reflect on them and to try to salvage such of its elements as they might find worth preserving . This is the geographical background to the birth and growth of so-called third generation of "new Confucianist" thoughts. Some of them,following the lead of such thinkers as Laing ShuMing (粱漱溟), Hsiung ShijLi (熊十力) further developed them, like Fung YouLan (馮友蘭), Ho Lun (賀麟),Tang JunYi (唐君毅)Mou TsungSan (牟宗三),) who taught in Hong Kong and Taiwan in the 1950s to 1970s.   This culminated in the delaration for the affirmation of Chinese culture amongst worldwide cultures  "中國文化與世界". by such Confucianist scholars as Tang JunYi (唐君毅)  Mou TsungSan (牟宗三),) Hsu FuKuan (除復觀) and Zhang JunLi (張君勵). This shows that their anxieties that Chinese culture may be swamped in the waves of Western thought flooding into China after the May 4 Movement in 1921 shortly after the end of the first world war when China was felt to have been badly treated by the Western imperialist nations. It was the  response of such "new Confucianists'" to the thoughts of those advocating complete and radical westernisation through the principles of science and democracy by such thinkers as as Hu Shih (胡適) and his followers like 柏楊, 李傲 and those less radical as these two advocates like 殷海光's students such as 林毓生 and 張灝 。


Hu Shih had written 中國哲學裏的科學精神與方法" "中國的傳统與將來" in which he advocated that it was time for China to radically re-think its philosophical traditions; that to talk about culture should mean talking about world culture and not just Chinese culture and that we should use the method of historical analysis of different kinds of philosophies to revitalise Chinese culture. But 殷海光 was less radical. He advocated that there might still be some value in traditional Chinese thought. He fully realizes the struggles of Chinese intellectuals in debates surround restoration or annihilating tradition, westernisation and anti-westernisation and mish-mash of Chinese/Western cocktail cultures and thought that we should begin the tragic reconstruction of Chinese culture. But overall, he was still against the Communist way and thought that the ideals of liberty and democracy should be the way forward. His student 林毓生 thought that whilst we should creatively remodel Chinese culture, we should not sacrifice quality to speed through the ideals of liberalism. 張灝 too, shares Lin's idea. He thought that the Chinese tradition should be merged with the liberal tradition but that there should be mutual critiques by traditional thought and modern thoughts against each other and both of them were against the new Confucianists' attempt to univeralize confucianist ideals as if they were eternal truths.


However, whether the relevant approaches are socialist, liberal-democratic or new Confucianists, the problem is really one of modernisation of Chinese society. The emphasess and the particular methodologies and their theoretical or philosophical basis may differ, the aim is always the same: how to move China forward into the 21st century so that its thoughts, its practices may be more in line with what the rest of the world is doing and find important. Perhaps it is time to reflect that  the age of monolithic ideology is long gone.  We have now entered into the so-called post-modernist age, where it is no longer possible to have a unified world view which purports to dominate all spheres of cultural life. Perhaps we should be less ambitious and simply accept that for as long as we live, there shall always be different ideas as to what is most important in people's lives; that there is always a particular historical context, in terms of space and time, for particular types of thoughts which, however tortuously and despite its conscious or unconscious disguises , may underlie such thoughts; that it is far more important not to live in fear of difference and diversity; that perhaps the only sensible thing to do is to live with the thought that we can never hope to completely eliminate such differences;  that we may as well make a virtue out of necessity and live our own lives and let others live theirs their own way and thus value respect and tolerance above all else just so long that we do not harm other people by our thoughts words and deeds. Whilst we may like to be more positive, the world is such that we may very well be permitted only to be negative and must let this negative "no harm" principle be the guideline of our thoughts and civilized conduct in our public life. The only rational thing to do in such circumstances is to engage in a continuous process of dialogue to see if some form of consensus may be arrived at on what should be done by whom to whom, where,when and how on the basis of equality, mutual respect and reciprocity.

2010年4月29日 星期四

A Perspective on HK/Taiwan Cultural Philosophy

I just read another chapter of "The Cultural Moment of Philosophy" by Hung Hiu Nam (洪曉楠) under the title "A Perspective on HK/Taiwan Cultural Philosophy (港台文化哲學透視). 


According to Hung, he had already written two books on this subject previously viz. 文化哲學思潮簡論 (00) and 當代中國文化哲學研究(01) and written on the contemporary new Confucians like Mou TsungSan(牟宗三), Tang JunYi(唐君毅), Hsu FuKuan (除復觀) , Fang YouLan(馮有蘭) and Lu ShuHsien (劉述先) but took time off during a visit to the Harvard-Yenching Academy to visit their library and discovered some interesting materials on HK/Taiwanese Chinese cultural philosophy. which he summarized in the above article. He treated the subject under three sub-headings: 1. the meaning of cultural philosophy 2. fundamentals of cultural philosophy and 3. the contemporary significance of cultural philosophy. The article first appeared in Dec 2003 issue of 哲學動態.


According to Tang in his book 哲學概論, the Chinese did not have a concept of cultural philosophy but they did have practices which may be so termed e.g. 禮記's discussion on the rites and music and the explanatory/expository texts on poetry, classics, rites, music, i-ching, annals of spring and autumn (詩書禮樂易春秋) and also the introductory chapters or prefaces of such  texts as those on history like Book of rites 禮書, Book of music 樂書, Journal on Artistic Texts 藝文誌 Journal on Criminal Law 刑法誌 etc have all discussed the meaning and value of subjects like rites and music, based on ideas of human nature (人性) and the nature of the Tao (天道) and their effects on political and social order and chaos  (治亂). To Tang, the Tsing scholar 章學誠 who in his The Universal Meaning of Texts and History (文史通義) considered that the teachings of 詩書禮樂易春秋 are the primary sources of Chinese scholarship and 馬一浮's thesis on the Six Arts (六藝) which considered that the culture and the spirit of the 6 arts will enable us to connect man to heaven or the Tao,  may both be considered as a species of cultural philosophy. Therefore if we consider Chinese thought as basically humanistic, then Chinese philosophy may be considered as centred on cultural philosophy. To Tang, all kinds of philosophy may be usefully grouped under the term "Humanism" which to him, may include cultural philosophy, the philosophy of history, the philosophy of education, the economic philosophy, religious philosophy, the philosophy of science, the philosophy of art and that all such distinctions are entirely artificial because ultimately, every one of them are concerned with how human beings should live as a species. Elmer Fung 馮滬祥 also agrees with Tang that the cultural philosophy form the core of Chinese philosophy. That is why in his Chinese Cultural Philosophy 中國文化哲學, he discussed the thoughts of Confucius, Mencius, XunTse, LaoTse, KuanTse, HanfeiTse, Mahayana Buddhism, ChuTse, YangMing, ShuanShan. This is the first book of Chinese cultural philosophy as such.


Next, there is another Taiwanese scholar Wu KwunYu (鄔昆如) of the University of Taiwan who had written a series of 5 volumes on Chinese culture from the 1970s to the 1990s which he called "Lectures on the Philosophy of Culture" (文化哲學講錄 79, 82, 83, 86 and 90). His method is to classify all thoughts under three headings viz. objective historical development (with empahsis on its reference value of the wisdom found therein for modern society) , inherent meaning ( on the relationship of man with nature, with objects, and with society and the dialectical relationship between them )  and contemporary significance (going beyond the metaphysical meaning of such thoughts and to explore how they may be applied in the social practice of man in society to  help them solve the common problems they face in their lives under contempoary conditions) from the point of view of philosophy. Voulme 2 deals with the social philosophy of pre-Chin Confucians, Volume 3 with the pre-Chin Confucian philosophy of culture, the pre-Chin Legalists's social philsophy and their relations with 3-Peoples Philosophy (三民主義) and Social Philosophy, Volume 5 with the social philosophies of the pre-Chin Taoist social philosophy, the social philosophies in the period of the two Han dynasties (兩漢), Wei Tsun (魏晉), Tsu and Tang (隋唐), Sung (宋). He also discusses comparative cultural studies like "The Future of Chinese philosophy from the perspective of comparative philosophy" (從比較哲學看未來的中國哲學 .), "A comparison of the development of Chinese and Western spiritual thoughts and its contemporary significance" (中西精神思想發展之比較及其現代意義)" "A comparison of Spengler and Toynbee (史賓格勒與湯恩比之比較)." He reviews the past, explores its meaning for the present and looks ahead to the future.  To him the rise of cultural philosophy is a great development happening only within the last two centuries, with its emphasis on the history of philosophy in the first 100 years and shifting its emphasis to social philosophy in the second 100 years and the two together span the whole field of cultural philosophy. He considers society is a cross section of human culture or civilization and philosophy explores the basis of such societies through social phenomena. Historical analysis is vertical whereas social observation is horizontal and through approaching the problem vertically and horizontally, we may then hope to find useful lessons for the future.


On the fundamental problems of cultural philosophy, Tang thinks that we should first define what the area of our studies, its basic concepts and its methods. To him, we need to examine the relation of man to nature, the nature of man himself and the relation of man to transcendence and therefore it will inevitably touch on problems of knowledge, the problem of logic, the problem of existence or metaphysics, the problem of values and the problem of life. To him, it is impossible to discuss knowledge, metaphysics and philosophy of values or of life without touching one another. Fung thinks that there are three problems about works on cultural philosophy by PRC writers. First, he thinks that they frequently fail to deal with the social and historical contexts of the relevant cultural philosophies. Second, they fail to link their studies with the conditions of contemporary life and third, they do not place themselves within the traditions of cultural philosophy in the West. To him, cultural philioshy must be linked at all times to the relevant social, historical and philosophical traditions and contexts and must attempt to outline its significance for contemporary life. He advocates 6 W's,: what (what is culture), why (why culture), where (where is culture leading to) when (when does culture rise and fade) who (who is moving the culture along) how (how does culture advance): in other words, it must deal with the nature of culture, its occurence, its development, its opportunties, its structures, its methods. To Fung, the philosphy of culture is the foundation of social and cultural development and it may also provide also the engine or motivating force for cultural  development . It provides a compass for such development and points to the ills of particular cultural forms and may thus indicate the direction for its remedies. To him the lessons to be derived from a study of cultural philosophy is that we should work on our psychological reconstruction and try to fill the spiritual void of contemporary men so that we shall not fall victim to excessive utilitarianism, over-smpahsis on techonological and commercial development and reintroduce an element of balance to contempoary life by providing certain spiritual resources available from our studies of past cultural values and past philosophies of culture.


To all the "cultural philosophers", all philosophies cannot help but be some form of philosophies of culture. 方東美 advocates paying attention to comparison, linking idealism to cultural models; Lu advocates the idea of  "one principle but  different realization  理一分殊"  ; Mou advocates understanding Chinese philosophy through Kant's  categories of reason and moderated development of the spirit of rationalism ( "和的盡理精神" ) and the ultimate development of the spirit of analytic reason (分解的盡理精神), the materialization of operational rationality  (理性之運用表現) and the realization of the structures of Reason ( 理性之架構表現) and a methods of expansion of Truth from within (外延真理) and the internalisation or internal accommodation of Truth (內容真理). Tang advises us to consciously use western philosophy to rein in the excesses of Chinese philosophy. To Hung, there is much to be gained from a closer integration of Chinese cultural philosophies with western cultural philosophies, between those of the the East and those of the West and between those Chinese scholars working in the PRC and those working outside of it.

2010年4月28日 星期三

A New Era of Post New Confucianism

My interest in Confucianism was kindled by a movie about Confucius  I saw at the HKSHP  last Sunday afternoon.  It was a USD2.8M PRC production to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the PRC, with Chow Yun Fat playing the role of the venerable politician cum social philosopher.  It attempted to turn Confucius from a two character name encountered in the leaves a high-school book into a flesh and blood person touched by sympathies, ripped by anxieties, grief, despair, ambitions, idealism, stubborn hopes and recalcitrant lust doing his best to restrain his natural desires through the exercise of reason, will and firm but not rigid adherence to rites and form instead of a colorless and arid dispenser of unrealistic "mottos" Despite a few misattributions of his "sayings", it succeeded. It certainly made him more human for me.  Apparently the latest thinking in the corridors of power in Beijing is that it is about time to mould Confucius as the promoter of "harmony" both inside China and around the world and a symbol non-aggressive Chinese influence. Yet less than four decades ago, the CCP made him and those who still dared to follow the principles of benevolence (仁), justice (義), loyalty (忠), filial piety (孝) and good faith (信) and above all decorum (禮), the targets of the most vicious ideological attacks and criticisms. History has a way of playing jokes with us. It makes one wonder whether in the end, there is something called "eternal or universal Truth" or if there is, whether its face will change with the unprediictable winds of political ideology. Whatever the truth may be, it is certain that the Chinese Government is now bent on  soft-pedalling Chinese culture worldwide along the model of the Alliance Française and the Goéthe Institute. To date, 282 Confucius Institutes and 272 Confucius Classrooms have already been established in 88 countries, including those in America, Russia, UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy many other countries in both Europe, South America and also in Asia including Japan, Korea and other South East Asian countries. Yet the Confucius Insitute only started life in 2004! It was established under the auspices of the Office of Chinese Language Council International ( Hanban 漢辦) which is presumably part of the Foreign Ministry or State Department. It is said that the Ministry of Education of the PRC is planning to set up 500 Confucius Institutes and the Hanban to double that number by 2020.  China is finally learning to spread its culture just like any other modern Western state! What would politicians not do! If Confucius has an immortal soul, something of which he refused to talk about whilst he was alive and which he brushed aside when asked with the remark, "We don't even know about life, why should we be bothered by death?", I am not sure whether he would laugh or cry. Perhaps just a smile and a nod?

So what is contemporary Confucianism all about? I turned to an article in ZheXue De WenHua ZhuanXiang (哲學的文化向) edited by Hung Shiao Nan (洪曉楠)  published by 人民出版社(2009).  In the article called "The Coming of the Era of the Post New Confucianists 后新儒家時代的來臨", Hung quotes 傅偉勛 who thinks that Confucius, Mencius and Xun (孔孟荀) were "classical Confucians", and those in Sung and Ming and their successors were the "new Confucians". But according to Yu YingShi (余英時), in his book " 錢穆與中國文化), the term "new Confucians"in the PRC may be applied to all who do not reject Confucianism in the 20th century but it may be more narrowly defined as those philosophers who have further expounded and developed Confucianism e.g. scholars like Hsiung ShihLi (熊+力), Zhang JunMai (張君勵), Fung YouLan (馮友蘭), Ho Lun (賀麟) and then a third definition very popular overseas, which is even narrower i.e. only those who follow the thoughts of Hung ShihLi.  But not everybody agrees with Yu. Thus in an article " 對當代新儒家的超越內省", Lu ShuHsin (劉述先) thinks that both he and Yu should be included within the broad defintiion of "new Confucians" and Cheng ChungYing (成中英) in the article "當代新儒學與新儒家的自我超越"(1995) argues that a distinction should be made between "new Confucians" (新儒家) and "new Confucianism" (新儒學), the former being those concerned with reaching a fair assessment of Confucianism and trying to develop and to assist the contemporary men to understand and to use them as standards for their personal or public policy purposes whilst the latter should be confined to particular contemporary academic philosophical schools within Confucianism who develop newer system of thought or themes based on established or firmly held "Confucian values" and argue for the universality of their truths and and their necessity., the former indicating just a rough orientation of their academic concerns and their academic "fashion".

Hung says that according to Lu ShuHsin, the new orientation of contempoary new Confucians is to switch the emphasis of their studies from that concerned with ethics or "respect for virtues" (尊德性) to those concerned with scholarship or  "expounding thought" (道學問). To Yu, the first two generations of new Confucians are concerned to establish  the highest possible ethical principles encompassing all forms of cultural activity and is focused on "teaching" (教) and not just scholarhsip (學).  To Lu, the contemporary or post new Confucians or the third generation of new Confucians are concerned not so much with upholding the traditions of Confucian morality but with developing a new academic schools of thought, branching out to linking with contempary western thoughts and with the problems of contempoary society, more with problems of life in general, and not just the moral life. But to Hung, this is not right. Even as long ago as December 1990,  at the International Symposium on Contempary New Confucianism" ( 當代新儒學國際研討會) in Taipei, Mou TsungSan (牟宗三) already emphasized the necessity for "knowledge" and "scholarship" and pointed out that merely emphasizing on the big learning/mega-knowledge (大學) purifying/correcting/adjusting the heart/mind (正心) and improving on/disciplining personal conduct (修身) are insufficient. In addition, Cheng pointed out another difference between the new Confucianism and the new Confucians is that the former placed the emphasis on using critical or objective reason to establish what they thought of as the philosphic and social "truth" and the "reality" of Confucianism but the latter put the emphasis more on internal subjective personal experience as the basis of establishing the value of "truth" and the "reality" of what Confucians advocate. Whereas the former base their values on objective knowledge, the latter first affirm the relevant values and then some but not all seek to use their "knowledge/scholarship" to assist them to realize such values. In addition, the former may try to go outside of the bounds of the Confucian tradition but the latter merely affirm Confucian values; thus the former may in a sense be considered as "scholarship of Confucianism" in the new age. If so, the popular conception that there is a third generation of Confucian scholars within China would lose its peruasiveness because they may be considered no more than just another form of the post modern variety of "new Confucianism".

To Hung, another major difference betwen the "new Confucians" and the "post new Confucians" is that whereas the former adhere stubbornly to the idea of unity of the Confucian tradition, the latter emphasize more the variety and differences of cultural perspectives. Thus Yu pointed out that since Hsiung, the new Confucians have emphasized that the Chinese tradiion must be upheld and placed at the centre of Chinese culture and should seek virgorously to expand into a "political tradtion" (政统) and an "academic tradition" (學统) . To Hung, Yu emphasized that "the great cultural tradition"(文化大傳统) is a "tradition of Tao" (道统). If so, the "unity of the tradition of the Tao" (一元道統) of moral teaching (教)is transformed into a "multilateral/diverse academic tradition of Tao) (多元 道(學) 統) . In we aceept this, then Tu, Lu, Cheng and Yu, often referred to as the "third generation of new Confucians" in the PRC, should be consdiered no more than contemporary new Confucians.

The coming era of "post new Confucians", will be characterized, according to Hung, by three characterstics. First, the so-called "third generation of new Confucians" will transcend the boundaries traced by the "new Confucians". Thus Yu places the emphasis of Confucianism on how it may affect the life and society of the contemporary Chinese. He is especially concerned with the idea of a "cultural China"(文化中國). To him the most urgent task of contemporary new Confucians is to make use of the resources of "Confucianism" as a focal point to re-unite the Chinese soul in the spheres of academia, knowledge and culture. Lu however thinks that the most important task for the contemporary new Confucians is to initiate and maintain links and symbiotic interactions between Marxist-Leninism, Westernisation and the tradition of humanistic Confucian thought. Yu is particularly critical of the "pride of conscience" (良知的傲慢)of the contemporary new Confucians and recognizes the problems resulting from their "auto-collapse of conscience".(良知的自我坎陷) Cheng, however, thinks that there should be a merging of knowledge, scholarship and values. Both of them were unhappy with the supposed self-sufficiency of Mou's ideas about the "new interior sanctity" (新內聖) driving the "new external king" (新外王)  and wish that Confucianism will be able to re-establish links with the contemporary post modern world  where diversity instead of hegemony holds sway.  

The second characteristic of the coming new era will be the much wider persepctives adopted by the Chinese scholars in the 1990s after they have come into contact with more and more Western ideas of scholarhsip following the 1980s "fad for culture". They are now advocating a move back to tradition, a much wider tradition than mere Confucianism, a more inclusive and poly-centric tradition instead of the exclusively Confucian tradition. Whilst they advocate return to tradition, the reason is that they hope that a return to that poly-valent and polycentric tradition will paradoxically enable them the better to renovate Confucianism.

The third characterisic will be a revival of "orientalism". However this is no longer the old idealistic and simplistic orientalism, and is more akin to a form of westernisation. The dilemmas posed by western post-modernism has exposed the weaknesses of the traditional western emphasis on indvidualism and materialism and hence the felt need for a form of oriental spiritualism or values as an antidote for the ills of contemporary western society. Here, the concern for this new type of "orientalism" is not how Chinese society and civilization may adapt to urbanisation, westernization and modernization through the adoption of science and democracy but how the values of Confucianism may help ameliorate the ills of western industrialization.  According to 季美林 , in the 21st century, the west will again look to the east for guidance because the West has reached the end of its tethers in its metaphysical analysis and may need to seek again the balm of "holism" inherent in Eastern civilizations.  The emphasis on destruction, analysis and individualism will be replaced by a new emphasis on integration, wholeness and unity of Eastern civilzations.

The article, though extremely simplistic, is just right for a neophyte like me. It has certainly introduced a number of imporant names in Confucian scholarship familiar to all those with a smattering of knowledge about the tradiitions of Confucian scholarship. Now I am much better placed to post the the various names in the appropriate slots of historical and scholastic traditions.  One really never knows what life will bring. A chance to see a free film and a spark has been lit! Where it is going to lead to, only time will tell.

2010年4月27日 星期二

Neruda's Oda a la naranja ( Ode to the orange 橘子頌)

Having done the apple, it's now the turn of the orange. Here it is with my translations.

Oda a la naranja                Ode to the Orange                 橘子頌

A semijanza tuya,                            In your likeness,                           橘子
a tu imagen,                                   in your image,                              
naranja,                                          orange,                                        以你為

se hizo el mundo:                            the world is made:                         打
redondo el sol, rodeado                     the sun round, circled                     
por cásaras de fuego:                         by peels of fire                               繞上

la noche consteló con azuhares            the night lit up its route and its.ship        燈
su rumbo y su navío.                        with orange blossoms                            照亮夜之
Así fue y así fuimos,                         So it was and so we were,                       
oh tierra,                                         oh earth,                                              你曾
descubriéndote,                                discovering in you                                 
planeta anaranjado.                           orangified planet.                                    

Somos los rayos de una sola rueda      We are the spokes of a unique wheel          你我
divididos                                        divided                                                 
como lingotes de oro                        like ingots of gold                                   
y alcanzado con trenes y con ríos         and attaining with trains and with rivers     
la insólita unidad de la naranja.           the special unity of the orange.                  橘

Patria                                              My                                                     我自已的
mia,                                                fatherland,                                            
amarilla                                           yellow                                                 黄

cabellera,                                          hair,                                                    
espada del ontoño,                             sword of autumn,                                   
cuando a tu luz                                  when I return to your                              

retorno,                                            light,                                                   
a la                                                  to the                                                  

desoerto de                                         desert                                                 石硝

salitre lunario                                     moon-like saltpeter                               沙漠
a las aristas                                         to the arêtes                                         在那被
desgarradoras                                       curdled                                               
del metal andino,                                 by Andean metal,                                 

cuando                                               when                                                  

penetro                                              I penetrate                                           
tu contornos, tus aguas,                        your contours, your waters,                    

alabo tus mujeres,                                I praise your women,                            
miro como los bosques                         I see them as forests                              
balancean                                            balancing                                            協調着

aves y hojas sagradas,                            birds and sacred leaves,                         
el trigo se derrama en los graneros           the wheat overflows the granaries             
y las naves navegan                               and the ships sail                                  
por oscuros estuarios,                            through dark estuaries                             
comprendo que eres,                              I understand that you are                        
planeta,                                                a planet,                                             
una naranja,                                          an orange,                                           
una fruta del fuego.                                 a fruit of fire.                                        

En tu piel se reúnen                                Beneath your skin is united                    
los países                                              the countries                                        

unidos                                                  united                                                 雲集

como sectores de una sola fruta,                 like segments of one single fruit,             
eléctrico,                                               electrical,                                             如通
y Chile,                                                and Chile,                                            
a tu costado                                           at your nurning                                     
encendido                                             shores                                                  
sobre                                                    above                                                  
los follaje azules                                     the blue leaves                                      
del Pacífico                                            of the Pacific                                        

es un largo recinto de narjanjas.                 is a vast neighborhood of oranges.            
Ananjada sea                                          May your light                                     
la luz                                                    be orangified                                         
de cada                                                  each                                                     

dia, y el corazón del hombre,                     day, and man's heart,                              
sus racimos,                                            his roots,                                              
ácido y dulce sea:                                     be sharp and sweet:                                
manantial de frescura                                 the freshness of spring                              
que tenga y que preserve                            which holds and preserves                        
la misteriosa                                            the simple                                             
sencillez                                                  mystery                                                
de la tierra                                               of the earth                                            
y la pura unidad                                        and the pristine unity                               
de una naranja.                                          of an orange
.                                          純潔之整體。

 To Neruda, the whole of South America constitutes a huge neighborhood of oranges which grows best in what has been called the Mediterranean type of climate, with prevailing westerly winds and slight rainfall in winter.  He compares the orange to a segmented sun with skins of fire. It is both sweet and sour. pure and mysterious at the at the same time. He hopes that the orange may become an electrying symbol for unity of the world which links different countries through its common cultivation. To him, the orange is predominantly a source of light!

2010年4月26日 星期一

Berezovsky in Hong Kong

Without a doubt, the highlight of Saturday's concert at the Cultural Centre was Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No.1 in B flat minor by Boris Berezovsky, who won the gold at the International Tchaikovsky Competition in 1990, some 20 years ago. He has recorded Chopin, Schumann, Rachmaninoff, Mussogorsky, Balakiev, Medtner, Ravel and Liszt and has won numerous prizes with various music magazines, newspapers,  radio etc with various labels including Teldec and Harmonia Mundi.


For me, Berezovsky's  Saturday night concert was remarkable for two reasons: the way he appeared and the way he performed. He is the first pianist I saw who dressed in what appeared an all-leather suit! He is tall and bulky. But his physical size is not confined to his body: the size of sound from his powerful yet nimble fingers is every bit as formidable. He plays the piano in the Russian tradition. He treats the piano as a percussive intrument which he will not hesitate to pound and hammer to extract the last decibel of resonance from it. We know from physics that when hit, the piano will emit not just a primary tone. The harder it is hit, the more harmonics it will generate and which endure in the air for a much longer period. The net effect of this type of play is that an unusually rich sound from the piano will shower the concert hall as the harmonics from the previous notes get mixed in with the primary tones from the subequent notes. It will be as if a kind of sonic flower with radiating waves of sound will bloom and which will merge with each other in a sonic eruption or explosion., thus producing an extremely complex sound structure which softer hits on the keyboard will never be able to produce or reproduce. He reminds me of the play of Richter. But there is a difference. If necessary, Richter can play very softly, almost as if his fingers were just caressing the keyboard. I did not see Beresovsky do that. Even in his softer passages, there is a certain mechanical quality in his play. I can see that he tried very hard to play the soft notes very soft. Perhaps he tried too hard. As a result his muscles got all tensed up. Whenever he finished playing a passage, he would immediately remove his hands very brusquely from the keyboard, in an energetic swing away from the piano to his sides, almost as if he wanted to instantly relax the muscles on his hands and fingers, to give them a much needed immediate rest so that he could the better concentrate forthwith on his next passage. For this reason, I like his strong passages much better than his soft passages. Also, I found that when he played the first movement, I got the feeling that somehow, the co-ordination with the HKPO under Perry So was not all that one would desire. Sometimes, it sounded as if each was playing independently of the other and for some passages, the sound of the HKPO almost completely drowned that from Beresovsky's piano. But he seemed to get into form from the latter part of the second movement and he was magnificent in the final movement, which he played a second time as an encore!.His dialogue with the cello and wind instruments was also excellent.  He also played another very fast piece as a second encore. He did tell us what it was but I could not hear what he was saying. It was a very fast piece which gave him the chance to show off his speed and agility by his lightning swift fingerwork. It was simply wonderful. One could never get enough of his last movement of the Tschaikovsky's No.1 Piano Concerto.


 In the second half of the programme, the HKPO gave a very impressive performance of Prokofiev's Symphony No. 5 in  B flat. This was one of the few works permitted to be performed by Stalin. I suppose one of the reasons was that he said that it was a song in praise of the Russian people in its resistance against German invasion. It was supposed to inspire the Russian people to fight the German aggressors.  He said he wrote it "to sing the praises of the free and happy man--his strength, his generosity and the purity of his soul.". Indeed it is very inspiring, full of positive notes and mood. In the second movement, there was a persistent rhythm of the music from the strings in staccato form which some thought might be intended to imitate the sound of soldiers marching in relentlessly regular steps. The symphony was premiered in January 1945 and was conducted by Prokofiev himself. This is one of the best loved of Prokofiev's symphonies. Full use was made of the brass and the percussions. It also brought a fiery and jubilant conclusion to the evening's concert, with the HKPO playing at full strength and sound to thunderous applauses.


But the concert began in a completely different note, a very meditative and almost impressionist piece written by a Russian composer called Anatol Liadov. It did not have a very distinct melodic line but certain motifs were endlessly repeated but always with variations. The piece was compposed originally as part of an opera which Liadov never finished. There was definitely a very out of the world feeling to the piece. When I looked at the programme notes, it was reported that Liadov once said: "Art is a figment, a fairy tale, a phantom. Give me a fairy tale, a dragon, something unreal and I am happy." The piece, called Enchanted Lake was premiered in St. Petersburg on 21st February, 1909, just before the first world war. It was a very atmospheric piece, with plenty of high notes, as if one were trying to portray heaven and the astral spheres, a little like the work of another Russian composer, Scriabin. I like it. It is so good to be able to listen to music of different styles. Each composer put his soul into what he wrote and we see his soul, through his music, his most intimate feelings and get an  imaginative tour of his heart! This is one of the advantages of going to concerts. Each conductor will try to introduce to us some relatively minor composers and minor work which we would never otherwise listen to. It opened up our minds and our hearts to novel musical experiences so we would not endlessly repeat our the merry go round of narrow-mindedness and limited exposure to different styles of music.  How dull life would be without  new music!!!

2010年4月24日 星期六

Neruda's Oda a la papa (Ode to the papa 薯仔頌)2

Honrada eres                                       You are honest                                                     你是誠實的   

como                                                   like                                                                       猶如

un                                                        a                                                                           一隻

mano                                                   hand                                                                     在泥土工作中的

que trabaja en la tierra,                        which works on the soil,                                        手,

familiar                                                you are                                                                  你猶若 

eres como                                            familiar like                                                           一只母雞般

una gallina,                                          a hen,                                                                    那麽尋常, 

compacta como un queso                    compact like a cheese                                             如大地

que la tierra elabora                             which the soil made                                                在她滿載營養的

en sus ubres                                         in its nutritious                                                        乳頭歌頌的乳酪般

nutricias,                                              udders,                                                                   結實,

enemiga del hambre,                            enemy of hunger,                                                   饑餓之敵

en todas las naciones                             in all the nations                                                     你勝利的

se enterró tu bandera                            your conquering flag                                              旗幟

vencedora                                             is buried                                                                 埋藏在各國地下,

y pronto allí,                                         and quickly there                                                    而很快地在那裡,                 

en el frío o en la costa                           in the cold or the                                                     在寒冷中或在那 

quemada,                                              burning coast,                                                          炎熱的海邊,

apareció                                                your anonymous                                                     你無名之

tu flor                                                    flower                                                                     花朵

anónima                                                appears                                                                    出現,

anunciano la espesa                               announcing the thick                                               宣報他根部那

y suave                                                  and smooth                                                              厚而幼嫩之

natalidad de sus raíces.                           birth of its roots.                                                      誕生。


Universal delicia,                                   Universal delight                                                      普世之歡欣,

no esperabas                                          you did not expect                                                    你沒料到

mi canto                                                 my song                                                                   我這首歌

porque eres sorda                                   because you are deaf                                                因你啞

y ciega                                                    and blind                                                                 與瞎

y enterrada.                                            and buried.                                                               和埋藏地下。

Apenas                                                   You can hardly                                                         在油之

si hablas en el infierno                            talk in the hell                                                           地獄中

del aceite                                                 of oil                                                                        或在

o cantas                                                   or sing                                                                      港口吉他旁

en las freidurías                                       in the fried-food stalls                                               的炸物店中

de los puertos                                          of the ports                                                               你那來時間

cerca de las guitarras,                               close by the guitars,                                                  說話或歌唱,

silenciosa,                                                silent,                                                                        沈默

harina de la noche                                    flour                                                                         地下

subterránea,                                              of the subterrean night,                                            黑夜之麪粉,

tesoro interminable                                   the everlasting treasure                                             所有人

de los pueblos.                                         of all peoples.                                                            永有之玫寶。

In this poem, Neruda sings his praises to the common potato, which he calls the "everlasting or endless treasuree" of all the people of the world. He talks of the history of its discovery by the gold-thirsty greed of the Spanish conquistators of South America who brought back, not gold but something much better, something which serves the common people instead of something which satisfied only the need for obstenation of kings, nobility and the wealthy: the potato which in South America is called papa instead of patata as it is called in Spain.  The blood of the consquistors have flowered in the form of a buried treasure which benefits the poor of the world, in a way which they could never have imagined when they stepped on to the Spanish galleon crossing the Atlantic in the hope that they would be heading towards China! In this poem, we also got an inkling of the pride that Neruda takes in being South American as distinct from being a Castellan, which is the mother tongue of the modern Spaniards.